Red Bulls Legend Angel Ends New York’s Winning Streak

Written by Ian Thomson
Angel of Harrison -- Juan Pablo Angel celebrating with Red Bulls fans after his late winner against Houston Dynamo in June 2010 (Photo: Ian Thomson)

Juan Pablo Angel, the all-time leading scorer for New York Red Bulls, didn’t get the chance to play at Red Bull Arena last year. The Chivas USA striker’s final appearance for Hans Backe’s side came in New York’s 3-1 playoff defeat to San Jose Earthquakes in November 2010. Angel scored the last of his 61 goals for the Red Bulls that night.

The 36-year-old Colombian was on the books of Los Angeles Galaxy when Chivas won 3-2 in Harrison, N.J. last May. He’d switched dressing rooms at Home Depot Center by the time the Galaxy traveled east in October.

Angel’s belated farewell to the Red Bulls fans took place Wednesday. Fittingly, he marked the occasion with a goal as Chivas held the hosts to a 1-1 tie.

Line-Ups

Backe reverted to his favored 4-4-2 formation after employing a more cautious 4-1-4-1 approach during last Saturday’s 2-1 win at Montreal Impact. Captain Thierry Henry made his first appearance since straining a hamstring against New England Revolution on April 28. Fellow designated player Rafael Marquez made just his sixth appearance of the season after recovering from an Achilles injury.

The Mexican’s return meant that Dax McCarty pushed into a more attacking role despite producing a handful of sublime performances as a holding midfielder during the past month. Joel Lindpere moved to the left of midfield and rookie Connor Lade dropped to the bench.

Backe reverted to a 4-4-2 as designated players Henry and Marquez returned from injury

Chivas Head Coach Robin Fraser made three changes from Saturday’s 1-0 derby win over L.A. Galaxy. Angel came into the attack as recent Red Bull Juan Agudelo missed out ahead of Saturday’s international friendly between the United States and Scotland.

Blair Gavin and Paolo Cardozo started in midfield with Miller Bolanos and Alejandro Moreno dropping to the bench.

Cardozo provided the link between Chivas USA's three narrow midfielders and two forwards

Early Blow For Goats As LaBrocca Exits

Chivas midfielder Nick LaBrocca displayed his attacking prowess in the second minute with a stinging 25-yard drive that Red Bulls goalkeeper Ryan Meara pushed away for a corner.

The 2011 MLS All-Star showed his work ethic a minute later by tracking Dane Richards back into his own penalty area. Unfortunately, LaBrocca overstretched while making his challenge and had to leave the game. Bolanos took his place on the right of Fraser’s midfield trio.

The Goats quickly overcame LaBrocca’s departure and elegantly retained possession between their midfield and forward lines without creating any chances. James Riley provided width with his advancing runs down the right side, and Cardozo found space peeling off to the left as Brandon Barklage tucked alongside New York’s central defenders and Richards remained higher up the field.

Henry almost opened the scoring on 12 minutes after McCarty’s harrying forced Rauwshan McKenzie into a slack back pass. Lindpere seized on the loose ball and squared it to Henry at the edge of the penalty area. The Frenchman exchanged passes with strike partner Kenny Cooper before bending a low shot just wide of Dan Kennedy’s near post.

Chivas were content to let New York’s defenders carry the ball unopposed into their half. Their narrow midfield three left huge spaces for Barklage and Roy Miller to occupy. The Red Bulls should have taken the lead on 24 minutes when Markus Holgersson and Barklage took advantage of this hospitality.

Barklage's heat map shows how much time he spent deep in Chivas' half (Source: MLSSoccer.com)

Barklage had too much time to measure a pass behind Ante Jazic into Richards’ path. Kennedy clawed the Jamaican’s deflected cross from his goal line, but New York kept the pressure on as Miller set up Lindpere down the left side. The Estonian picked out Richards with his cutback, only for the diminutive winger to take a fresh-air swipe from 12 yards out.

Angel almost punished his former employers a minute later, thumping a shot against Meara’s right post from 16 yards after being teed up by Jose Correa.

Red Bulls Exploit Chivas’ Narrow Midfield

The narrow positioning of Blair Gavin, Oswaldo Minda and Miller Bolanos continued to allow the Red Bulls’ full-backs to advance unchallenged deep into Chivas’ half. Lindpere and Richards created further space, and defensive uncertainty for Chivas, by drifting infield between the visitors’ back and midfield lines.

Heath Pearce, who joined New York from Chivas in last week’s trade that sent Agudelo to Southern California, strode beyond the center circle on 31 minutes before finding Lindpere in that hole with space to turn. A quick pass found Henry on the left of the penalty area. The former Arsenal striker scuffed his effort wide of the far post.

Roy Miller also received far too much space to attack down Chivas' right side (Source: MLSSoccer.com)

Bolanos’ hesitancy on 39 minutes allowed Miller to run clear after a basic one-two with Lindpere. The Costa Rican left-back stepped inside Danny Califf’s woeful sliding challenge before stabbing his shot just wide of the far post as he tried to bend it around Kennedy from a tight angle.

Lindpere drilled a low shot into Kennedy’s side netting just before half-time as the Red Bulls began to dominate.

Angel’s Goal Doesn’t Turn The Tide

Moreno replaced Cardozo at half-time with the veteran Venezuelan occupying the right side of Chivas’ midfield trio and Bolanos pushing into the hole. The visitors took the lead within two minutes of the restart from a set piece.

McKenzie wrestled free from Miller’s attentions to head Gavin’s outswinging corner toward goal. Angel wheeled sharply on the 6-yard line to hook a volley beyond Meara’s reach.

The goal didn’t alter the pattern of play as the Red Bulls quickly got back on the front foot. McCarty sprayed the ball out to Richards on 51 minutes after Marquez won a couple of tackles in midfield. His cross was perfectly placed for Henry to head the equalizer. The Frenchman placed his effort straight at Kennedy.

Henry lacked sharpness in front of goal after his injury lay-off

Henry looked rusty after his injury layoff, finding the target only once from six good opportunities. Cooper continued to lead the line effectively in his captain’s absence, and the former F.C. Dallas striker notched his 11th goal of the season to draw New York level on 56 minutes.

The goal bore the hallmarks of earlier Red Bulls attacks as Barklage received far too much room to advance down the right touchline. Jazic, unsure whether to close down the full-back, stopped tracking Richards’ run and Barklage threaded the ball into the space between Jazic and central defender McKenzie. Cooper easily converted the winger’s first-time ball across the 6-yard box.

Jazic's (circled in red) slight forward movement gave Barklage the option to slide the ball behind Chivas' defense (white arrow) in the build-up to Cooper's equalizer

New York piled forward in the closing stages in search of a record-breaking sixth consecutive franchise win. Jazic showed the value in putting a man on the post to defend corner kicks – something Philadelphia Union didn’t do against the Red Bulls on May 13 – by clearing McCarty’s header off the line on 82 minutes.

The Red Bulls fans howled for a penalty kick a minute later when Lindpere went to ground after a challenge from Kennedy. Chivas’ goalkeeper thwarted the Estonian one final time with a save on 86 minutes.

Conclusion

Chivas played some delightful soccer in the midfield, orchestrated by the exceptional Minda, but lacked the precision around the penalty area to turn their possession into chances.

This was arguably New York’s best display since their 4-1 crushing of Columbus Crew on April 7. Chivas’ narrowness handed the initiative to the Red Bulls’ wide men, and Miller and Barklage ended as two of the game’s three busiest players (along with McCarty). A sharper Henry would surely have sealed the three points.